Meal planning is my mom superpower, but meal prep has never been my thing. As a mom of two, I find most of my weekend time gets gobbled up by soccer games, laundry, and epic LEGO tower building.
But having a fridge stocked with at least a few prepped meals makes me a more peaceful, kinder mom come Monday morning. In an effort to make the most of any free weekend time I do have, I focus on breakfast and lunch, which tend to muck up my mornings most. This Power Hour will give you a week of grab-and-go breakfasts, mix-and-match lunches, and a low-prep dinner meal plan. Consider it an entry-level plan for a family of four.
I love planning what we’re going to eat for dinner during the week, and dinnertime isn’t as stress-inducing for me as it is for some. I’ve actually found that chopping and cooking helps me transition from work mode to family time. Breakfast time, however, is the complete opposite! Getting two kids out of bed, fed a nutritious breakfast, and off to school and daycare with packed lunches is like a mad dash meets circus parade.
My Power Hour session, therefore, sets me up with grab-and-go breakfasts for myself and my husband and a variety of simple, hearty breakfasts my kids will love. I’ll also be prepping a week of school lunches for my two kids — 10 lunches total — with some leftovers for my own work-from-home lunches. Bonus points if I’ve got the time to make a salad dressing for dinners.
My Meal Prep Goals
- Breakfast: Grab-and-go breakfast options the family will love — or at least eat without complaint (five days).
- Lunch: Packed lunches for my two kids plus work-from-home lunches for me (five days).
- Dinner: My meal plan this week is low-prep on purpose so I can prepare breakfasts and lunches instead. If I have any time to spare I’ll make a simple salad dressing or the DIY ranch seasoning for Wednesday night’s dinner.
- Nutritional Goals: While I’m not up against any allergies or specific dietary goals, I am trying to keep my kids (and husband) full between breakfast and lunch with high-fiber, veggie-packed options. And personally I’m trying to eat as many green vegetables as I can at each meal (hence the spinach wraps and lunch greens).
My weekly meal plan: 5 Low-Prep Dinners to Get You Through the Week
Meal Prep Plan Snapshot
- Feeds: Two adults and two elementary-age kids
- Prep Time: 1 to 1 1/2 hours
- Meal Covered: About 60% (covers breakfasts and lunch, and some dinner prep)
- Weeknight Cooking Required: Yes, but most dinners require one pan and 30 minutes or less.
My Meal Plan
My Shopping List
- Produce: 1 box baby spinach, 1 box mixed greens, two pints cherry tomatoes, 1 large head broccoli, 1 bag broccoli slaw, 4 russet potatoes, 1 pint of blueberries, 1 quart of strawberries, 1 personal watermelon, 6 apples, 2 peaches, 1 bunch bananas, 1 bag of carrots, 2 red peppers
- Meat: 1 pound deli ham (cut thick), 1 pound ground beef, 1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs
- Dairy: 1 quart full-fat yogurt, 2-dozen large eggs, sharp cheddar cheese, half-and-half (for coffee), non-dairy milk, feta cheese
- Pantry and Freezer: Arborio rice, 1 can tomatoes, 1 can chickpeas, 1 can black beans, rolled oats, slivered almonds, dried cherries, maple syrup, cornmeal, tortillas, frozen corn
Looking at this list, you might wonder how all this could take longer than an hour, but remember that there will be near constant interruptions from my two kids. If I’ve really got my stuff together, I unload the dishwasher and fill a sink with hot soapy water while the oven preheats.
- Preheat the oven and pull out the lunch boxes. I pull out storage containers to give finished foods a place to land.
- Bake granola: I mix up granola and get it into the oven first. It has the lowest baking temperature but longest cook time. I wipe out the granola mixing bowl and reuse it for mixing up muffins to cut down on dish-washing.
- Make ham and cheese lunch box muffins: I mix up the ham and cheese muffin batter and load up the muffin tin. If the granola is still baking, the muffins can totally hang out the counter while they wait for their oven time and temperature.
- Assemble the breakfast wraps and freeze: While the muffins bake and the granola cools, I tackle the most hands-on recipes of the Power Hour. If I happen to run short on time, this can be a breaking point to turn a movie on for my kids or enlist my husband’s help chopping veggies and packing lunch boxes.
- Toss together tomato chickpea salad. This will mostly be eaten by me, so I mix it up directly in their glass storage containers and tuck it into the fridge.
- Prep veggies and fruit for lunches. My husband steps in to slice peppers and carrots for lunch boxes, and strawberries and watermelon for breakfast. Since the lunch boxes are already out, it’s easy for him to see what needs to be filled where.
- Pack lunch boxes: I only completely pack Monday and Tuesday lunches and then partially pack Wednesday through Friday. I’ll add fresh-cut fruit to the half-packed lunches later in the week.
- Make DIY ranch mix for salads, lunch boxes, and dinners. I have a ranch-loving 6-year-old so if time allows I’ll mix up this DIY ranch mix and fold into yogurt for a lunch dip. Plus the ranch mix is part of Thursday’s dinner.
A Week of Prepped Breakfasts and Lunches for Four
Here’s a brief overview of how we ate this prep for the week.
Breakfast: My husband and I primarily eat the breakfast wraps while our kids alternate between granola with yogurt and fruit and granola with milk. On one of the earlier days in the week, my daughter asks for a lunch box muffin instead of granola and I am happy to oblige.
Lunch: I eat through the tomato and chickpea salad and lunch box muffins with a simple green salad and sliced veggies for my work-from-home lunches. A few return lunch boxes come home with the chickpea salad so I’ll probably skip that for future lunch box fodder. Happily every single lunch box muffin is eaten up. At the end of the week I have to pack a few lunch boxes with crackers and cheese instead.
Dinner: This meal prep plan doesn’t include much dinner prep and honestly that’s just the way I like it for now. Without having to hustle and bustle with breakfast before school I have time to prep the slow cooker sandwiches in the morning, instead of on my lunch break, which means those sandwiches are ready when everyone comes home hungry on Wednesday night.
Friday is always my planned pizza night and we either go out for $2 slices at our neighborhood pizza place or use up any leftovers to make pizza at home. After a long week of working, parenting, planning and prepping, I’m happy to have someone else serve me a hot slice of veggie pizza and a cold beer.
As a reluctant meal prepper, focusing my effort on the two meals that cause me the most stress made for a much smoother week for my family. I’ll slowly be incorporating more dinner prep into our meal prep Power Hours at home.
Hopefully this plan was helpful for you, whether you have a family of four or more. Stay tuned as we share more Meal Prep Power Hour Plans for all family types, for reluctant meal preppers, and meal prep pros alike.
Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.
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